Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pornography Reduces Sex Crime

British Prime Minister David Cameron wants to block Internet pornography and make it less accessible, especially to minors. But research shows that if he succeeds, sex crimes are likely to increase – especially those involving minors as victims or offenders.

Cameron is far from alone in this ambition. Plenty of debaters and organizations express moral indignation regarding Internet pornography and insist that it promotes sex crime as well as brutal sexual behavior. They have no proof at all. Instead, their far-fetched conclusions are simply based on the same old prejudice against sexuality, as if it's a sin to make love and lust is something disgusting.

The rabid war against pornography and any explicit sexuality only reflects the distorted view on sex upheld by those self-righteous warriors. They don't care about what research concludes and what the real effects on society may be – to them, sex is basically a crime, at least when enjoyed by others.

Research proves clearly that when pornography is increasingly accessible, sex crimes decrease. That's particularly true for sex crimes against minors or committed by minors – the ones that Cameron and like-minded agitators claim they want to protect. If they succeed in making pornography less accessible, minors in particular will suffer from the consequences.

That is the sad case also if pornography is made less accessible to minors. It may be hard for many adults to face, since they tend to regard sexuality as something from which they need to protect the young.

The adult world at large has a strange attitude towards our sexuality. It's often spoken about as something unnatural and perverted, especially if done outside of wedlock or at young age. But nature is indifferent to human civil institutions, as is our own biology, and our sexuality emerges at a younger age than that of consent in most countries.

Children start to explore their sexuality already before puberty, but most definitely their bodies shout at them to do so when puberty commences. Complete abstinence and denial are no options. If teenagers are hindered to explore this aspect of their lives, it leads to frustration and complication. Only a world that regards sexuality as something basically evil would demand it of them. And that's a world gone mad.

Another argument constantly repeated is that minors should not be introduced to their sexuality by pornography, because of its often malicious and vulgarized form of sex. That argument would be much more credible if the people expressing it also advocated sex education relevant to the needs of the teens. But they rarely do. Their alternative is mainly to “spare” minors from sex, possibly with the exception of warnings against sexually transmitted disease.

It would indeed be nice if pornography could incorporate all the finer aspects of our sexuality and the joy it can bring, and some of it definitely does. When pornography turns ugly, it's mostly a consequence of its expulsion from decent society, the taboo of it. That leaves it in the hands of a hardened minority and the whole business becomes overly indecent. Beauty leaves the room, as talented artists go elsewhere to express themselves.

The low standard of most pornography is a consequence of the lacking talent of its producers. Also, the fact that pornography is largely condemned by society makes its producers fall into the trap of making it condemnable, as if that is what's called for. Not to mention its proximity to the world of crime, again because of it being regarded as a social outcast. We have thrown pornography into the hands of people lacking business moral.

In spite of its quality deficiencies, pornography has a healthy influence on society, simply because we're all so fascinated by sex that we need to explore it more than just by marital coitus. It meets parts of our desires. Nothing harmful in that. The harm comes from condemning it.

Conclusive Research

Already in 1970, the Danish Professor of Criminology Berl Kutchinsky reported that increased pornography did not lead to an increase of sex crimes, but the contrary: most of those crimes decreased.

Denmark had recently legalized pornography, so he had the statistics of a whole country to analyze. Soon also Sweden and West Germany did it. His continued research showed that the effect was the same there. Here is a report of his from 1973: The Effect of Easy Availability of Pornography on the Incidence of Sex Crimes: The Danish Experience.

Later, Kutchinsky could include the USA is his studies, where the laws on pornography had also changed. Here is a study from 1991, dismissing the myth that pornography causes rape: Pornography and rape: theory and practice? Evidence from crime data in four countries where pornography is easily available.

Another nationwide example is Japan, which became increasingly lenient towards pornography over time. Statistics showed significant drops of sex crimes, in particular those with minors as either victims or perpetrators. Here is a 1999 report by the US Professor of Reproductive Biology Milton Diamond, where he also discusses previous research about the effects of pornography, and the drop in rape crimes in the USA: The Effects of Pornography: An International Perspective.

In the above report, Diamond also discusses the evidence that US statistics on sex offenders show them less exposed to sexually explicit material (SEM) than others, especially in young years, and their upbringing being more sexually restrictive:

This lack of early exposure to pornography seems to be a crucial consideration. Most frequently, as it was found in the 1960s before the influx of sexually explicit materials in the United States, those who committed sex crimes typically had less exposure to SEM in their background than others and the offenders generally were individuals usually deeply religious and socially and politically conservative (Gebhard, Gagnon, Pomeroy, & Christenson, 1965). Since then, most researchers have found similarly (e.g., Ward & Kruttschnitt, 1983). The upbringing of sex offenders was usually sexually repressive, often they had an overtly religious background and held rigid conservative attitudes toward sexuality (Conyers & Harvey, 1996; Dougher, 1988); their upbringing had usually been ritualistically moralistic and conservative rather than permissive. During adolescence and adulthood, sex offenders were generally found not to have used erotic or pornographic materials any more than any other groups of individuals or even less so (Goldstein & Kant, 1973; Propper, 1972). Among sex offenders, violent rapists had seen no more pornography than had sex peepers or flashers (Abel, Becker, Murphy & Flanagan, 1980). Walker (1970) reported that sex criminals were several years older than non-criminals before they first saw pictures of intercourse. Thirty-nine percent of convicts surveyed by Walker agreed that pornography "provides a safety valve for antisocial impulses." It thus seems that early exposure to sex, rather than late exposure, is socially more beneficial.

Permissive Is the Key

There is no evidence at all to the myth that pornography leads to sex crimes, but lots of proof to the contrary: wide access to pornography leads to a decline in sex crimes. Still, I seriously doubt that the access to pornography alone can explain significant drops in sex offenses. There are more things involved.

A society being more permissive regarding pornography is surely also a society with a more permissive attitude towards sexuality. Sex crimes are closely related to sexual oppression and prejudice, as indicated by the Diamond quote above. A liberal mentality in society diminishes that oppression and the frustration it causes, maybe not in every household but in most of them. And that's what lowers the sex crime rates.

Another closely related issue is that of education. A permissive society is not restrictive when it comes to sex education, whereas typically societies with less tolerance tend to minimize or completely ban it. That may very well have a greater effect on sex crime statistics than pornography. They just happen to coincide. So, what we really need to guard is a positive and permissive attitude towards sex in general, including pornography, and the rest will follow.

The Internet Boom

Since the mid-1990's, there has been a tremendous boom of worldwide accessible information of any kind on the Internet. Pornography, too, has become more easily accessible than ever before in history – also to minors. So, how has that influenced the frequency and nature of sex crimes?

From the previous research presented above, it makes sense to assume that increased pornography accessibility will continue to decrease sex crimes. Findings seem to be consistent with this. Here's a no-nonsense Slate article discussing it briefly: How the Web Prevents Rape. And here's the research by Todd Kendall quoted on the issue: Pornography, Rape, and the Internet.

A quick search on the Internet seems to confirm it, but what strikes me the most is that such research seems to be rare or marginalized, even on the Internet. Why so? Now we have the chance to do a worldwide study on the effect of pornography access – so why is this not already an established fact? Instead, there are lots of texts speculating with little facts to confirm it about how Internet pornography might change people's attitudes towards sex. But that's just speculation.

If rapes decline they decline, and they do so – especially among the young, who are the greatest consumers of anything Internet. This source specifies a 72% decrease of rape in the USA since 1993, right before the Internet boom started: Sexual Images and Sex Crimes. The US Justice Department confirms the sharp decline: Female Victims Of Sexual Violence, 1994-2010. So why not shout it out?

It doesn't fit with the conservative prejudiced attitude towards sexuality, which regards it primarily as something filthy and deplorable. But that's just prejudice. It should not be allowed to make the rules of our society.

Monday, July 8, 2013

War Is Not About Aggression

I saw a TV documentary about the origin of war: is it inherent in our species or did it come with civilization? There's no consensus within the sciences, so I allow myself to speculate.

I have pondered it since childhood years. Before things got complicated with accumulated knowledge, I took for granted that war was a consequence of aggression within our species. I witnessed it daily in myself, my classmates and other people, from the youngest to the oldest. Even infants can show rage and have violent outbursts.

I didn't like it. As far as I could see, nor did anyone else, really. Well, maybe there were some few exceptions among the worst of the bullies, but also in their eyes I saw glimpses of regret, even grief, immediately following their outbursts. Actually during them. Violence was something that erupted, quicker in some than in others, an irresistible force that satisfied none.

It was as if we had demons inside, occasionally taking control of our bodies. The eruption of rage was as unpredictable as that of volcanoes. And anyone could see that what it left behind was nothing but destruction.

I figured that this uncontrollable aggression was something animalistic. After all, our species belongs to the animal kingdom and we share ancestors, going far enough back in time. Any animal has the ability to be triggered into rage and violence.

I could see it in the cutest of pets. It was just as sudden as with humans. An outburst, and then stillness without any sign of satisfaction. Surely, the root of the aggression was the fight for survival – either to defend oneself when hunted by a predator or when the roles were reversed.

Aggression is the primary weapon in killing. I dreamed of a universe where the survival of one wouldn't demand the death of another. Still do.

So, I suspected that war was that demon let lose in grand scale. The same thing, simply involving lots of people at the same time.

But after just a brief introduction to history it was evident to me that war is a completely different thing. It may use the aggression latent in man, but that's never what starts it. War is a planned action, having its cause and aiming at a certain effect. It's started by reason, not the instincts.

Usually, war is initiated by other people than those who have to fight it. The rulers. They seduce or force their subjects to march into battle for one or other reason. Rarely do the soldiers march in rage, but in battle they need it in the desperate effort to survive. Like on the school yard, when boys clash in a fight.

If mankind had no aggression, there would certainly be no war. No one would fight it – at least not before technology made it a thing for the machines. And without a history of man to man combat, how would weapons for that purpose at all be invented?

The basic reason for war is always the same: someone wants what someone else doesn't want. The collision of wills. Therefore, the very first wars back in primordial times must have been in competition over limited resources. Food, water, women, whatever essential to us before the dawn of civilization. Basically, the essentials are still the same, albeit in fancy costume and grand scale.

It may have started as theft, leading to robbery and then plundering. Groups of people discovered that they could take from others what they didn't find or produce themselves. Again, that's pretty much what war is still about.

Soon enough, the most skilled or ruthless thieves had the resources to parasite their victims by becoming their constant rulers, like a farmer and his cattle. Hierarchy emerged, with an increasing level of oppression. Then the greed of rulers turned them against each other. As the rulers grew in power, so did their wars.

Simply put: The root to violence between individuals is the aggression we all have inside and can't always control. But the root to war is greed.

To my experience, what triggers aggression is frustration. If we are pleased, our inner volcanoes sleep. If violence increases among people in society, it's because they are increasingly frustrated. Society can do that to you, especially when it's ruled without compassion. Sadly, that's often the case. But it can be changed.

What seems to trigger greed the most is not poverty but plenty. The more people have, the more they want. Strange thing. There's just so much Russian caviar one can eat.

When some have more than others, they want to protect as well as increase it. If it's power, and it usually is, they will use force. Thereby they quickly gain more power, so they can escalate the force. They seem unable to restrain themselves.

It has nothing to do with aggression. When rulers start wars, they do so coldly, not for fighting but for winning.

So, the more evenly power is distributed, the less risk there is for war. History shows this clearly. Democracy, with all its fallacies, tends to avoid war as a solution. When the conflict is between two democracies, then, chances are great that peace remains.

In the case of both aggression and war, the problem seems to be the rulers. How about that?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Don't Wanna Stay Alive When You're 25

What's with the withering of rock stars, when they become adults? Is rock'n'roll an art form reserved for those in touch with their adolescence? Or could it be that its artists have a limited time of creativity, whatever their age at the outset?

I've been watching YouTube clips of some of the old pop and rock giants. What keeps picking like a woodpecker on my brain is how their artistic poignance dims at a certain time in their career, as if someone blew out their candle. They get comfortably well-to-do, they lean back with confidence, and their new material is anesthesia.

After a couple of decades struggling with this depressing fate, they surrender and resort to shows where they do karaoke versions of their old hits.

It happens to the best of them. Why so? What is it they lose when the frenzy of their adolescence wears out? Well, probably just that. Without the anguish of the adolescent, there's no rock'n'roll. It's just songs. Songs with an anxious naiveté, soon lost to those who actually survived it. They can repeat the melody and words, but not the sound and feel of it.

Art is salvation, but also a deadly trap. You can be its martyr, and numerous following generations will praise you, or you can be its survivor, by which the dust from the battle settles on you. You become a relic, forever a servant of memorabilia.

I was never surprised that so many rock legends died before reaching this stage. What continues to surprise me is how many survived it and keep on living, although not finding a way out of it – unable to completely change their path to where past feats lose their gravitational pull.

The analogy of celestial mechanics might hold the key. You can land on the moon and take off with the same vessel, but how to escape a black hole? When your mark on history exceeded a certain value, there's no way to go on and do other stuff.

Art is salvation, but also a deadly trap. We live in a time when pop and rock songs are regarded as gospels, magical potions by which life is both expressed and saved. It sure feels like that at certain concerts, momentarily. But they're songs.

Already when I was an adolescent, I was often struck by ambiguity regarding the majestic qualities attached to songs of this or that moment of time. When my inebriation faded away, I had to conclude that most of those celebrated hymns had next to pointless lyrics, no matter what was done with drums and electric guitars to enhance them.

Sure, there were fragments of poetic ingenuity at times, as well as an occasional kōan. But mostly they were surrounded by self-evident rhymes. Well, drowned in them. Not much compared to the monologues of Shakespeare, or for that matter the dialogues of Plato.

The music had its merits, thought seldom to the extent that it was equally satisfying without the original performer in his or her state of adolescent anguish. Karaoke, as mentioned earlier, revealed that with non-compromising cruelty. How many of those pop and rock anthems will really stand the test of time? Few, I bet, compared to the hundreds of years that Mozart and Beethoven have already managed splendidly.

Also the stage shows struggle to survive revisits, as time progresses. What once seemed earthshakingly spectacular soon becomes awkward, if not to say ridiculous.

In some few cases, the frenzy of the original performances keep on striking cords within us – but surely not when those artists have ripened. When the desperation is gone, so is the sensation.

Art should not be too occupied by speaking to the present. No fundamental truths are to be found in the illusion of the now. Art should speak to the timeless, to the aeons gone and those coming, alike. That's where the essence hides. We're all essentially the same, as is the world we live in. What's not eternally recurring is not that vital to us.

When our idols grow old, they think that they still have some kind of precedence over their songs, because they once gave birth to them. But if they're not the same as when that happened, they are doing the same karaoke as everyone else. A piece of art ceases to be the property of the artist as soon as an audience has started to relate to it.

So, the mistake made by our pop and rock icons is not that they keep singing their old songs, but that they do it without trying to recreate the desperation they once felt.

It can be done. There are gifted actors who can play any role intensely, regardless of their age or gender or any other circumstance. So could some of our fallen rock stars, if they tried.

If they don't want to, maybe they should do something completely different and refrain from desecrating their past glories by holding on to them half-heartedly?